Psychology of the Kharijites
If we look back at the trustworthy books of Hadith, Islamic articles and history books, we will find that the kharijite tendency and origin actually appeared in the era of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Hence, it was a pre-revolution to the revolution against the caliph Uthman ibn Affan’s, may Allah be pleased with him (d. 35 AH /656 CE), and the battles of the Camel (36 AH/ 657CE), Saffen (37AH/ 657CE) and the other subsequent tribulations.
Bukhari narrated (164-256) in his Saheeh that Abu Sa’id Bin Malik Al-Ansari (74 AH / 694 CE) said, “While the Prophet was distributing the spoils, ‘Abdullah bin Al Khawaisira Al Tamimi came and said, “Be Just, O Allah’s Apostle!” The Prophet said, “Woe to you! Who would be just if I was not?” ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab said (23AH/ 644 CE),”Allow me to strike his neck!” The Prophet said, “Leave him, for he has companions, and you can’t compare your prayers with their prayers or your fasting with theirs. Yet they will go out of religion as an arrow darts through the body of a deer.” (Several narrations have revolved around them, out of which three were narrated by Bukhari while Muslim narrated the rest.) The other various narrations mostly describe the outsiders to the first generation who revolt against the nation, having what seems to be the signs of prostration , or a man we admire his worship, used to battle alongside the prophet, prolongs prayer, and sees himself as the most pious of his companions and the best of them all, devout, with a shaved head , and only recently a Muslim .
The Kharijites are a deviant sect that appeared in the era of Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib, due to the political controversy that began in his era, their political views caused a political rift in the nation’s unity. Kharijites first appearance was specifically at the Battle of Siffin, which took place between Ali and Muawiyah, may Allah be pleased with them, when the people of Sham – Muawiyah’s troops – raised the Quran calling the people of Iraq – Ali’s troops – deceived by the Karajites in that call. The Kharijites believed in that proclamation, while Ali knew that it was a deceit by the people of Sham to evade defeat. Thus, he urged them to pursue the battle, but they refused and accepted that invitation instead, thereby forcing Ali to accept it, and threatened him by saying, “Answer the Book of Allah – of the Almighty – if asked, otherwise we will push you onto them.”Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, forbade them yet they declined. Thus, Ali was forced to accept the invitation in order to protect Muslims from drifting. He then assigned Ibn Abbas to negotiate with him, yet the Kharijites shunned him, and said: “You’re closest to him and he’ll surely favor you, but send Abu Musa instead for he has retired from the battle field and was recommended to us. Ali reluctantly agreed.
Furthermore, when the two judges met – Abu Musa Al Ash’ari and Amr bin Al Aas – they agreed to postpone the adjudication until Ramadan. Ali then went back with those who were with him from Siffin to Kufa, but the Kharijites changed their minds, and proclaimed the innocence of the arbitration and saw the plain error and disbelief, when they were the ones who threatened Ali into accepting it in the first place; thus they disagreed with the group both in opinion and attitude. Twelve thousands of them alienated themselves in Horura, so Ali then sent Abdullah ibn Abbas to them – may Allah be pleased with them – and said to him: “Do not rush their answer and wait until I come.” But they insisted on debated him and he accepted the debate, and when Ali came he responded to them with what angered them in that adjudication. Some of what they objected to was as they said, “Tell us, is it fair to resort to a man’s judgment when it comes to bloodshed?” Ali said to them – may Allah be pleased with him: “We didn’t resort to a man’s judgment but to the judgment of the Quran; this Quran is a book of written lines which does not speak yet men articulate it.” They said: “Tell us, why did you keep the appointed time amongst yourselves?” He replied, “To teach the ignorant and strengthen the scholars, that Allah might bring this nation together with this truce. So enter Egypt and may Allah have mercy on you.” And they entered.
However, when they entered Kufa they once again opposed the issue of arbitration, and when Ali intended to send Abu Musa to the government, Zurah Bin Burj and Harqus Bin Zuhair Assaidy of the Kharijites came to him and said, “Repent of your sins and retreat from the issue, and direct us to our enemy so we may fight them.” Ali said: “We signed a truce with them.” Harqous said, “A sin that requires repentance.” Ali then said, “It is not a sin but we were unable to reach a conclusion.” Zurah replied, “I’ll fight you for Allah’s sake unless you refuse man’s judgment.” Ali countered, “Miserable you, as if you could kill me.” He said, “I wish I could.” And the two Kharajites both went out shouting: “No rule but the rule of Allah.”
One day, while Ali was giving and address and the Kharajites yelled out this slogan near the sides of the mosque. Ali said: “Allah is the greatest, it is a word of truth they wanted to misuse it.” He then began his sermon again and they repeated the same words again, so he said, “As long as you’re one of us we’ll have to comply with three things: not to prevent you from praying in the mosques, nor the spoils as long as you’re fighting with us, and not to fight you until you initiate it; and we will be waiting for Allah’s judgment regarding your case.”
The Kharajites is a group characterized as extremist by the way in which it insists on its heterodox creed at the exclusion of anyone else. They even called for the rejection of the rightful and caliphs Uthman ibn Affan, Ali ibn Abi Talib, and Bani Umayya rulers. Kharijites insisted on the selection and the pledge of allegiance in ruling, with the need to hold the Muslim rulers accountable for everything , and that the Islamic nation is in no need of a successor in the time of peace.
Shahristani indicates that the Kharijite tendency is based purely on the mind, as per the saying, “to improve and repulse.” The first Kharijite ruled with this mentality, neglecting the texts, which is not what the Prophet did – peace be upon him. Rather, the Prophet ruled by the text, and thus if we consider that it was the Kharajites who revolted against Imam Ali – may Allah bless him  – we should recognize that whoever goes against what the Messenger of Allah did is supposed to be accused of “rebellion “.
Moreover, tribalism and nomadic origins are one of the most integral factors in the emergence of the Kharijites. A lot of historians emphasize the Arabic identity of the Kharijites, for they were often of Arabic tribes, such as the tribes of Tamim and Bakr and the people of Yemen, prominent tribes during the age of ignorance . Ahmed Amin also indicates that Al-Mawali, who joined the Kharijites, were not of a significant number , they were merely captivated by the Kharijites’ demands that ruling should not be restricted to one tribe or race. Thus, as non-Arabs they believed that the Kharijites might accept them as rulers.
Likewise, the researcher Nayef Maruf says: “Our inclination is that the Kharijites were initially pure Arabs, nomadic Arabs in particular,” for their opposition described them as Bakr and Tamim Arabs , and perhaps the tribes of Bani Tamim supplied the Kharijites with the greatest number of soilders and leaders. Hence, it can be said that this movement was born amontst Bani Tamim or under its flag, and that was when Al Asha’ath went over to them to read the book of arbitration. With them was the leader of battle, Ibn Rabi Tamimi, Musar bin Fedki Tamimi, Urwa ibn Adya Tamimi, Merdes bin Adia Tamimi, and the leader of the rebellion, Harqous bin Zuhairal-Saadi Tamimi, as well as Ibn Al Kowaiseri, who was the one who opposed the Prophet in the division.
Nevertheless, there were those of Bani Tamim who opposed and even fought them . and perhaps the most living proof of the Kharijites tribal tendency against Quraysh and its power is that we do not find in their ranks one Qurayshi from the date they existed.
Furthermore, the four caliphs are from Quraysh and Umayya was of Quraish, and the Kharijites were envious of Quraysh for acquiring both Prophethood and the caliphate. This became evident in them by virtue of the fact that the tribes of Al Rabi’a were feuding with the tribes of Muderi during the period preceding the advent of Islam; these feuds faded somewhat after Islam, but then re-emerged in the form of perverse religiosity. This is further proved in that Asha’ath bin Qais, in his refusal to choose a representative to Imam Ali, objected to the nomination of Abdullah bin Abbas saying: “No, I swear, no Mudiri will judge until the day of retribution.” . He prefered his Yemeni Al Rabi’a tribalism over Imam Ali’s orders.
In addition to the ignorant tribalism and Arab-centric factors that are evident in their behavior, there is also another factor that was the basis for rebellion and the rise of the Kharijites century, namely, “money.” Abu Awana Yaqub ibn Ishaq Al Nisaburi (d. 316 AH / 928 CE) decided that the first rebellion was due to favoritism in division; and that is when their leader opposed the Prophet – peace be upon him – in the way they divided the spoils. It was likewise with those who revolted against the Caliph Uthman – may Allah be pleased with him – accusing him of dividing funds between his relatives. Al-Tabari narrated that they called out from his house, “Hurry to the house of funds, before someone else gets to it,” and robbed it .
When the Caliph Ali divided the funds of Basra to the ones who participated in the Battle of the Camel, the “Sabean” questioned Ali’s integrity along with those who fought in the battle of the Camel. Muawiyah Ibn Suffyan – may Allah be pleased with him – had written to Uthman bin Affan describing the Kharijites, “All that matters to them is sedition and the money of people of the Book”  Most of the Kharijites were “readers,” meaning readers of the Quran, but none of them known as great companions, nor scientists or scholars. They pledged allegiance to Ali bin Abi Talib after the death of Uthman ibn Affan, and when Muawiyah refused to pledge allegiance to Ali, and came out with an army to battle Ali and Siffin took place, they revoked their pledge of allegiance.
The Battle of Nahrawan:
The Kharijites gathered after their opposition to Ali and revolted against the Muslim community, killing Abdullah bin Khabab bin Al Aratt and disemboweled his concubine; so Ali – may Allah be pleased with him – demanded they surrender the murderers. They refused and said, “We’re all murderers, and we’re all allowed to kill each other.” Ali then addressed and advised them to refrain from what they are doing, but they chose to persist in fighting. Ali then fought and eradicated them, and only seven or eight of them remained – as the historians mention – dispersed in the country; yet from them the Kharijites’ seed grew again and formed sects that have been a constant concern to the Islamic community.
The Kharajites called themselves “the believers,” “the community of believers,” or “the believers’ community.” But the Kharajites were identified by the name “Kharajite” due to their unsanctioned revolutionary stance of going out against the accepted Imams of righteousness and justice. The name became widespread and they accepted it, but interpreted it as: going against the imams of “injustice and immorality” and that their revolution exits as a form of jihad for Allah’s sake.
The designation the people of Nahrawan: the name of one of Nahrawan sites that fought in revolutions. The label or Harooris or Al Horuriya: affiliation to one of the sites also fought in revolutions. The name of Al Muhakama: due to their decline to the rule of Amr al-Ash’ari, and saying: “No ruler but Allah.” The name Al Shura: they called themselves Al Shura, as the ones who sold their earthly souls and bought the bliss of the Hereafter.
Conceptual Origins of the Kharijites:
In the beginning, the Kharijites did not have a formulated collection of concepts that distinguished their creed from the Sunnis. For their disagreement with Muslims revolved around the issue of adjudication; however, the Kharijites creed widened in its heresy and transgressions.
Some of their opinions:
1 – To revolt against leaders if they happen to contradict their approach and understanding of religion.
2 – Declare whosoever commits a major sin an infidel .
3 – Disown the caliphate Uthman and Ali – may Allah be pleased with them.
4 – Appointing the Great Imamate to a non-Qurashi, for they believe that anyone whom they assign as the Imam, whether free or slave, Arab or non-Arab can maintain justice. Some of them (Al Najadda) even believed that people don’t need an Imam, and that people can bring justice among themselves, though if they felt the urgent need for an imam, they are allowed to assign one.
5 – Drop the penalty against an adulterer, and dropping the punishment for the one who makes false allegation against chaste men without dropping it when it comes to chaste women.
6 – Some of them deny Surah Yusuf, one of the most heinous sayings, and this statement is attributed to Al ‘Ajarda, when they said that a story of adoration is not fit to be in the Holy Quran.
7 – Prayer is necessary even during a woman’s menstruation, which is clear contradiction of what the texts say.
The Kharijites traits in the Hadith:
No group has been mentioned in the Prophet’s Hadith as much as the Kharijites. There are many Hadiths which mention their traits and warn us about them. Some of their traits are as follows:
1 – Lack of understanding of the Quran: Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri – may Allah be pleased with him – narrated from the Prophet – peace be upon him – that he described them thus: “You cannot compare your prayers with their prayers nor your fast with theirs, yet they will go out of religion as an arrow darts through the body of a deer.”
2 – Asceticism and worship yet malicious belief, as stated in the Hadith of Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri.
3 – They declared peace upon enemies of Islam but war upon the friends of Islam; as narrated from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri that the Prophet said about their description: “They kill the people of Islam and leave the people of false deities.”
4 – Young and foolish: It was narrated from Ali – may Allah be pleased with him – that the Prophet – peace be upon him – said about the Kharajites: “They are young and foolish.”
5 – Shaving their heads: As evidenced in Bukhari and attributed to the Prophet – peace be upon him – that he said: “Their attribute is shaving” by which is meant, shaving their heads in a special way, or to shave it altogether, since Muslims didn’t commonly shave it for other than a ritual.
6 – Vicious manners and morals: As transmitted in Muslim, that “The ones slain of them are the worst dead under the canopy of heaven” as reported in Tabarani; and that they are “dogs of fire” as in Musnad Ahmad; or that “they will go out of religion as an arrow darts through the game’s body.”
Kharijites Psychological characteristics:
Human beings vary in their natures and psychology, from the lenient and tolerant to the coarse mannered, and those in between. Thus, looking back at the “divisive” movements that took place in the Islamic community, and considering the recurring features such as fanaticism or accusations of infidelity, both in the pre-modern and modern times, one may come to find that the extremist person is one who is prepared to accept fanaticism; for it begins in the psychological realm, then reaches extremes via its concepts later on, until such a point that the mind is reassured that it is leading a righteous path. However, Kharijites in the past and present are characterized by their coarse manners even before espousing any new convictions. Furthermore, the first Kharijites were so intent with the idea of disowning Uthman, Ali and Bani Umayya, that it took over their minds and blocked their senses. Whoever disowned Uthman, Ali, Talha and Zubair, was regarded as one of them, and they even tolerated other principles that mustn’t be tolerated. Thereafter, they assisted Ibn al-Zubay in his revolt against Bani Umayya, yet they immediately shunned him when they learned that he did not renounce his father. They even admitted that Umar Bin Abdul Aziz was a just ruler, yet they refused to pledge alliance to him due to their practice of renunciation. These are their public actions, but it is actually their tribal radicalism that caused them to drift from Bani Umayya, Quraysh, and the Caliphate, refusing to accept those who don’t “belong” to their race.
Abu Zahra said about them : “They resemble in their eloquence and fanaticism, the Jacobins, who committed severe atrocities in the French Revolution, because of the mottos that took over their minds and led them to slaughter countless people in the name of, “freedom, equality and fraternity”. Likewise, the Kharijites were blinded with the mottos, “no rule but the rule of Allah” and “blamelessness”, and permitted the Muslims’ slaughter in their name, launching invasions everywhere. Hence, the main characteristics of the Jacobins and the Kharijites were enthusiasm and power of conviction.”
Moreover, the slogan they raised “No rule but the rule of Allah,” in Imam Ali’s era and currently, a word of truth with vicious intentions, and their claim: “No rule except for us,” reveals how if they are given something of this world, they are content; but they do not attain any share, then they are annoyed; and if someone of wealth is found amongst them, then he seeks to preside.
The youth suffer from the psychological inclination of distinguishing themselves from others and the “violators of the known” policy, as well as the desire to belong to an atmosphere that makes them distinct from the “normal,” and the desire to belong to a place that makes him more distinguished. In any case, if he doesn’t manage to integrate with his peers of the same sex, he may be attracted to fall into unhealthy relationships that seem to fill the need for admission.
The philosopher Gustave Le Bon says in his description of the Jacobins: “The Jacobinism psychology is especially present in people with extreme morals and narrow minds. This psychology also includes a minor stubborn intellect, and everything that doesn’t belong to faith in concept and doesn’t affect it. Also, the Jacobinism spirit is overwhelmed with emotional elements which makes the Jacobin utterly gullible, as he only has awareness of the external things, believing that what is generated in his spirit of fake images are facts and thus misses the links between all incidents. Hence, the Jacobin commits sins not because of his intelligent mentality but because of his week intellect.” .
Much like the Jacobin mentality, most of the Kharijites psychological characteristics can be traced and identified throughout history, in their poems, creeds and massacres. For enthusiasm and courage greatly impacted their demeanor in a lot of events such as interrupting the caliph Ali during his sermons and prayers, challenging Muslims in broad daylight, murdering the companion Abdullah bin Khabab bin Al Arat, or when they were asked by the Caliph to hand over the murderers but they obstinately refused and said that everyone was involved in the murder of Ibn Al Khabab. Thus, Ali – may Allah be pleased with him – battled them, yet even that didn’t persuade them to change their minds. As for naivety, they have several laughable matters. After murdering a companion and disemboweling his concubine and killing her child, they abstained from eating dates. They even have many other stories with the disbelievers, for they spared the lives of enemies yet allowed the bloodshed of righteous Muslims. They also met with Wasel Bin Atta the leader of the Mutazela (the Isolationists) and a group of his friends, and when they asked them about their faith Wasel answered: “We are the people of the Book.” They took him and his companions in, read them some verses from the Holy Quran, ensured their safety, but if he were to say that he is a Muslim they would have killed him. Such that they murdered Muslims yet ensured the safety of disbelievers.
They espoused fanaticism to the point of obsession, were aggressive in dealings with anyone who violated their ways, and were extremely harsh in their transactions and defense of their point of views. Perhaps the reason is that most of them are nomadic Arabs, and have a greater propensity for irritability and estrangement in their demeanor, for the Kharijites’ concepts and beliefs don’t demonstrate any tolerance.
The first Kharijites were impoverished nomads both after and prior to Islam. Islam touched their hearts yet their naïve mentality, narrow vision, disloyalty to the State, and disobedience to an Imam, meant that it was difficult to unify them with the other Arabs. Some of them were disbelievers or hypocrites who converted to Islam but did not believe in it, or those who converted due only to tribalism and not belief.
However, the Kharijites’ renunciation was actually due to poverty and not wealth; it was like patience was forced upon them, or a nomadic trait disguised in the form of religion, for they were already used to the hardship of life, and therefore developed coarse manners and reckless impulsive minds. Leniency will rarely be found in them, and their quest for leadership clouds all the arguments, for it is as if an unspoken secret to them, and some of our politicians are living proof.
Moreover, their envy towards Quraysh for having the rule in Islam, is something they inherited between Al Rabi’a and Al Amadria. Their harboring of hatred may be due to a psychological factor, since humans have a tendency to hate things that are attached to pain in the past, be it words, pictures or scents, because it reminds him of this pain. Also, his psychological attributes enable him to accept the concepts that psychologically show him ease.
The Kharijites’ ideas have great acceptance in those with narrow minds and coarse manners. For some who have Allah’s guidance only find in it what suits their desires yet choose the Prophet’s guidance over what they love. Furthermore, it is also the case that Al Mortajia emphasizes the verses of Allah’s mercy and forgiveness, but neglect the warnings, and to them Allah is the Forgiver of sin, yet they close the sentence before: “the Stern in punishment, the Bountiful”; therefore those who tends to follow this approach are urban wealthy people with behavioral disorder.
Extremist external characteristics of psyche:
A psychology that does not accept moderation or fragmentation, either with it or against it, conflicting contradictions, either blind approval or disagreement, and the war that never subsides. Ibn Taymiyah explained the emergence of the different sects by their propensity to disagree over: the existence of good and evil, what is heresy and Sunna, the presence of sin and virtue in one soul. The Kharijites said that good and evil do not meet in a human, and therefore considered the sinner an infidel because they find it impossible for obedience and disobedience to meet in a human, and claim that his faith is negated if he commits a sin. Morjia, on the other hand, said that sins don’t affect faith, and the righteous Sunnis said, it’s possible for good and evil, obedience and disobedience, to meet in a human, but he is accepted for his obedience, and shunned as much as he sins.
The second characteristic:
Rugged manners; for you will never find a tolerant, lenient, lovable extremist in history. Instead, you find that intolerance, intensity, and cruelty are the characteristics of the extremists throughout history, and therefore one will never find a tolerant Khariji. Nor will one ever find a relenting Murji, for their psychological traits have a role in espousing concepts. Thus, it can be seen that the extremist identity tends to favor extreme creeds and ban the permissible. Yet when left to choose between permissibility and prohibition, they will always choose prohibition since militancy is a part of the extremist’s psychology. They do not choose balance according to the Prophetic guidance.
The third characteristic:
Fixation with general principles and hatred of details; they accuse people of infidelity in droves without providing any details or allowing exceptions, as the Khariji does not like to get into details that would prevent him from exercising his hobby of tormenting people and defiling their honor. Their habit is to take similar verses without understanding their underlying meanings and inferences, in reference to other verses or Hadiths that allegedly interpreted the verses and then say: “No rule but the rule of Allah” without actually considering the multiple verdicts and revisions, nor seek the interpreters and Imams; though after they insulted the companions, what is left to them other than their whims? And that’s why you notice in this modern time that they first start to insult the Sunni scholars then their students, then the public and the rulers.
Intolerance of the violator and megalomaniac
The extremist does not preach for Allah’s sake but for his own sake since he is the “only one” to determine what’s right and what’s wrong, or believes he’s utterly right and his opponent is absolutely wrong, and this is what increases his extremism: when he doesn’t allow himself to retreat from his ideas, but rages as soon as an overwhelming evidence against him is found.
Over confidence in every aspect of religion, which makes him desert people over any disagreement whatsoever. Thus, you find the extremist to be the least patient and the least likely to mingle with people, and in return, they are utterly fond of each other, and glorify each other to a large degree, and therefore you find this trait present in the Kharijites, for they keep on praising each other yet they are quite abusive when speaking about their opposition, as a poet said:
Sighing as if bearing an enraged fire within
Encounter them you’ll see the ones who bow
Weep, and prostrate
Weep as he recites the verses
Free of imperfections, pious with the utmost virtuous traits.
(And another said describing his companions:)
Birds keep flying over them,
Looking at impoverished constitutions
For fast has made it as thin as a blade
(And another glorifying his companions:)
I’ll sell thy soul and pray to Allah to reward me with paradise
And Ibn Maneh, Merdas and his siblings for they have forsaken life’s luxuries
Sixth characteristic :
They have a psychology capable of adhering to bogus concepts, even if everyone stands in the way, and scholars as well as revelation prove the falsehood of such ideas. They will keep debating even with the people closest to him if they happen to disagree with his views. The Kharijites are also the most enduring when it comes to worship and devotion, and forsaking life’s luxuries. One of them has said: “Who would hate to die? Death to me is more savory than honey.” Another said: “When will I finally die a martyr, it is the greatest honor.”
This causes them to neglect priorities and deludes them into an imbalance due to their ignorance.
They defend their doctrines and constant present pretenses, but never allow the opponent to be a victor, even if the opponent is on the right track while they were all was wrong; they will forever keep denying with empty arguments and evidences. They also have a strong desire to discuss and manifest their capabilities of “reasoning”, even when they are at the heart of the battle, for gloating and overestimating their brand of scholars is a major trait.
They are fanatics when it comes to their views, for they will never admit defeat to their opponents no matter how wrong their ideas are, since their minds have been overwhelmed with their own perverse doctrine. Thus they get into useless debates out of their sheer fanaticism and not for the purpose of implementing righteousness. They also have changing controversy such that whenever their pretenses are refuted, they simply come up with new ones. Their debates with Ali and Ibn Abbas are the perfect examples.
 The Sunni approach, Ibn Taymiyah : c 2, p 39.
 Fath Al-Bari, Ibn Hajar Al Askalani : C 6, p. 226-227.
 The same source: C 12, p 246.
 It is said to Imam Ali: “may Allah be pleased with him”
 Melal and Nehal, Shahristani: c 1, p 21.
 Illustrations of Islamic history, Abadi: p 186.
 The Dawn of Islam, Ahmed Amin: p 262.
 Kharijite in the Umayyad period, Nayef Mahmoud Anonymous: p 28.
 History of al-Tabari, al-Tabari: c 6, p 3353.
 Al KImel, Ibn Mubarad : c 3, p 1129.
 Al Yacoubi history, Yacoubi: c 2, p 189.
 The Sunni approach, Ibn Taymiyah said: c 4, p 391.
 The history of al-Tabari, al-Tabari: v. 5, p 391.
 The same source: C 5, p 87.
 History of controversy, Abu Zahra: p 146.
 Quoting: History of Controversy, by Abu Zahra: p 146.